Apple has filed a patent application for a stylus that you can touch to any surface, take a photo, and store the texture and colour data into a 3-D image file. Easy to imagine: you’re sitting at Starbucks, drawing on your iPad. You need to add a nice wood grain to a render that you’re working on, and instead of searching for one via online databases, you simply tap your pen to the table, digitise the walnut finish, and add it to your scene.
Image from fastcodesign.com
Will Apple will ever release this stylus? Who knows. But the patent is part of a larger trend in creative tools: as apps like FiftyThree’s Paper and Adobe Comp make tablets a reasonable substitution for desktops, our peripherals are evolving along with them, creating a future where, instead of just digging through image databases at our desks, we’ll be able to hunt, scan, and catalog the colours, textures, objects, and art in the world around us, as if we’re collecting specimens for our illustrative mad science experiments.
At SXSW, when I met with Scott Belsky, the founder of Behance (who now leads mobile app development at Adobe), he showed off a series of new apps Adobe had been developing around the idea of grabbing media in the wild. One app can identify any font your camera sees; another can grab a texture, like fabric or grass. One can build colour palettes from your surrounding, so if you’re inspired by a piece of interior decorating, it can inform a menu you’re producing for a client.
In each of these cases, a camera snaps a piece of media, uploads it to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, and is available for use immediately. “We had a brainstorm recently about the marketing angle, and explaining the zen of what we’re creating,” Belsky said. “And one person was like, “Get out.’ I was like, ‘What do you mean, get out?’ and he said, ‘All I’m imagining is all these work stations with empty chairs.’
Designers leave the office to be inspired. It’s why designers from automobile companies and design firms often travel the globe for project research, to be influenced by both global aesthetics and cultures, to see familiar materials used in new ways. What’s different now is that we can bring our computers with us. They’re smaller than ever—tiny enough to slide into our pockets—and work with media acquisition peripherals loaded with new sensors, made cheap by the economies of smartphone scale. It’s a mix that’s going to lead to an explosion of new media acquisition devices.
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